The Public Relations Officer (PRO) to the Office of the Prime Minister has confirmed a formal complaint will be lodged with the police this morning, over the inappropriate use of a photo of Prime Minister Charlot Salwai yesterday.

The photo was posted by Nak Media Vanuatu in Vanuatu News, a news forum on Facebook. The post accused a particular state minister of his involvement in an alleged sexual assault between a Chinese national and a Tannese woman.

The post did not mention the position nor the name of the minister, but included the PM’s photograph.

PRO Hilaire Bule said the police will be investigating this matter and there are chances that this case will be labelled as defamatory because the allegation raised had nothing to do with the PM.

He added the government acknowledges and recognises media freedom but this case is an abuse of media freedom.

The PRO contacted Nak Media admin, Witnol Benko and voiced his disappointment over the use of the Prime minister’s photo. Benko relayed to PRO Bule that he was not aware of the post, adding that the news and photo was filed by one of Nak Media’s journalists.

He apologised for the use of the photo and removed it from the post concerned.

But the PRO said the damage has been done.

“Even though the photo was removed, it does not change the intention of the post which attracted more than 100 comments and over 60 shares from members of the general public,” he said.

He also commented that the allegations were leveled against a state minister who is said to be currently overseas. He said this is wrong because there are five ministers who are currently abroad.

According to PRO Bule, traditional media photos cannot be used in news writing when cases are still in the investigation process.

“Perhaps Nak Media has an intention behind the posting of PM Salwai’s photo on a story based entirely on hearsay,” he said.

“The government will not tolerate posts such as this and will ensure the person behind this particular post will face the full force of law.”

PRO Bule said the Cybercrime law will be passed in parliament this year to address this issue. He also added the use of fake IDs on Facebook against another person is way out of control but this will be addressed once the law comes into effect in the near future.

Meanwhile Mr Benko told Daily Post they have apologised for using the Prime minister’s photo on a news item that he is not associated with. He also confirmed they have removed the photo and the post of the state minister is there with a more appropriate photo.